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Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger on: Reassembling a Mosaic
 Dr. Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Inst. pf Patholgy Listen in Real Audio

Currently we have about 15 percent of the virus decoded. The influenza virus is broken up into eight different RNA segments. It's not one solid piece of RNA, and they vary from about 1,000 to 2,500 bases in length. The pieces that we can recover from the cases are only about 150 or 160 bases in length. So what we have to do is basically put together these pieces like reassembling a mosaic, one piece at a time, and sort of march along reassembling.

For the initial look, we looked at five different genes, just small segments of five different genes just to get a feel for what the virus in general looked like. But since then, since the publication of the paper, we've been concentrating on the hemagglutinin gene, which is the major surface protein of the virus, which is important in how the cell infects humans and is the major immune response to virus. We have actually completely finished reassembling the sequence of that gene, which is about 1800 bases long. We're doing final analysis on that now and we should submit paper for publication on that analysis in a couple of weeks.

But we really think the material is representative and ultimately we might be able to decode the entire virus. But it's going to take years of effort because the pieces are so small that to reassemble them is an incredibly tedious and time consuming task.

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